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Once again, the tuition fee debate has reared its ugly head. Oxford University’s Vice-Chancellor, Andrew Hamilton, has declared that universities need to charge up to £16,000 a year for tuition in order to meet the ‘real’ cost of teaching a degree. According to the Independent, Hamilton actually won support from the Russell Group, the Director General of which stated: “Our leading institutions cannot continue to be internationally competitive, provide a first-rate teaching experience and offer generous support to disadvantaged students without access to increased funding.” Hamilton wants the government and universities to address the real cost of teaching and the funding shortfall that most universities face after government cuts, whilst students and some universities argue that we shouldn’t be the ones paying for it.
I know that most of you are probably sat there thinking that you’re sick of hearing about tuition fees, and to a certain extent you’re right. I’ve lost count of the number of times that the headlining educational news has concerned tuition fees over the last few years – yet there must be a reason why we all keep returning to this topic, and unfortunately for us, that reason is that tuition fees are at a preposterous level. At the moment, you’re probably not feeling £27,000 in debt. The reality is, however, that one day we’re going to feel ever more disadvantaged when our pay check whizzes out of our bank accounts faster than it went in. If your degree course started in 2012 and you manage to get a graduate job paying over £21,000, you will pay back 9% of your wage, plus interest, until you pay off the whole loan. 9% may not sound like a lot, but when you factor in that interest will be the equivalent of the rate of inflation (and possibly more depending on your salary), and the cost of all your other bills and general living expenses: you’ll be left with very little.
This is why it’s so important that we address the issue of tuition fees. Once we leave the bubble of university life, this £27,000 lump sum is going to hit us like a slap in the face, and surely we have the right to question that as much as possible – even if the Liberal Democrats are too spineless to admit that their U-turn was wrong. Some might say that what’s the point of all this debate when, in the end, it will change nothing; we’re still going to be saddled with this debt when we leave university. Surely, however, we should go down fighting? The government needs to understand just how much of a life-changing decision it has made by raising tuition fees to this level, and the best arsenal that we have is words. Whether it’s through debate or writing articles for Comment (hint hint), putting yourself and your opinion out there matters. Such an attitude that Hamilton, and those who have supported him, have just shows that they don’t care about the students, who are at the centre of all this debacle. Yes, there are funding issues at almost every university and yes, they do need to be resolved, but other ways of doing this need to be found rather than just punishing the students who want to learn.
In the end, we are all suffering for the world’s financial cock-up, and when the future generation of educated adults is at stake, we have to force that point home through persistence and repetition. Next time you’re watching the news decrying the government’s latest financial mess, just think about the money that is being taken away from your future. That’s why this and the many hundreds of other articles about tuition fees matter.